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<   No. 4523   2021-05-26   >

Comic #4523

1 Mercutio: Is this the road to Stratford?
1 Armoured knight: Aye, that’s where I’m going.
2 Mercutio: Oh, hop in, we’ll give you a lift.
3 Shakespeare: You can’t give this man a lift! Seeing the inside of a van will break his 16th century brain and wreck history!
4 Armoured knight: There are maidens inside this dragon likeness’s stomach! This is incredible attention to detail!

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After writing this comic I wondered about the currency of "give you a lift" as an idiom for offering to transport someone to a destination.

I looked it up, and indeed it appears not to have been in use as far back as the 16th century. However, neither is it nearly as recent as I had thought!

The meaning of lift in the sense of "help given to a pedestrian by taking him along his way in a vehicle" dates from at least 1712, with a citation in the Oxford English Dictionary from that year (although the surrounding text gives the year as 1732, the OED citations clearly says 1712).

Being the earliest written record of this usage, it's certain that it was being used in spoken English for some time before that year, although perhaps not as far back as 1536.

Mercutio, being a man of the 21st century, is of course not bound by this, but the armoured knight seems to take his futuristic language well in stride.

Reader Pau Amma points out:

The knight understanding Mercutio's idiom is probably not the real problem. The knight would likely not understand Mercutio's accent very well, if at all, due to the Great Vowel Shift. (It started around 1400, so part of it was already there in 1536, but nowhere near all.)

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